An 81-page analysis report shows that two (2) locations in the Roselle Park School District (RPSD) had lead levels in their tap water 66% higher than New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) recommended levels of 15 ppb (parts per billion) – or 0.015 MCL (Maximum Contaminant Limit). Testing was conducted as a result of calls from parents and residents to have the water in the school district inspected following high levels of leads found in Newark public schools earlier this year.
The locations were both at the Roselle Park High School (RPHS) – one in the library kitchen sink and the other in a water spout over the main stove in the main kitchen. The testing was conducted in April of this year by Garden State Laboratories out of Hillside, New Jersey.
According to Sue Guercio, the RPSD Business Administrator, both pipes were immediately capped and removed from service.
There was only one location which tested at the 15 ppb level. That fixture, the main kitchen large sink in Robert Gordon School, was not capped and remains in service.
Harvey Klein, the laboratory director for Garden State Laboratories, explained the testing and analysis. He said, “15 ppb is like 65 MPH on a highway. If you’re going 65, you’re not going to get a ticket. If you get a reading of 15 (or under), that is not considered an exceedance. If you get a reading of 16, that is considered an exceedance.”
He added that sometimes a reading of 0.0154 MCL might be rounded down to 15 ppb. Mr. Klein stated, “Personally, I would say that anything above 15, even 15.1, in my opinion, should be considered in exceedance but then again, that’s just an opinion. That’s not a legal requirement.”
In providing a brief history of testing for lead in water, Mr. Klein started with the federal government, explaining that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has an action level at 15 ppb for lead in drinking water for public water systems. He related, “If a public water system takes – and I’ll give you an example – 100 water samples, if more than 10% exceed 15 ppb, that’s considered an exceedance and the public water system has to do certain things and, of course, Flint Michigan is an example of that.”
He referred to a 2006 EPA document titled “3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water in Schools” where the agency recommended for school drinking water fixtures a guidance of 20 ppb for a sample taken in a 250 ml sample container. He pointed out that the federal Lead and Copper Rule (LCR), which is the law, requires a one liter sample container after the water has been stagnant for – at least – six hours and that the EPA guidance is just a recommendations, not a legal requirement.
Proceeding to the state level, Mr. Klein said that the NJDEP, in writing, recommended that schools use a guidance in a 250 ml sample taken between 8 and 18 hours at 15 ppb. He continued, “The DEP is recommending, and we concur, that if a school taking individual samples at drinking water fixtures has an exceedance at a fixture of above 15, they may wish to take further action. Again, I will point out, it is not a legal requirement.”
When notified that only two out of 81 fixtures tested had levels of 0.025 MCL, Mr. Klein stated, “Actually that’s a relatively low percentage. It’s not surprising to find between 5 and 10% of samples having exceedances. That doesn’t mean you ignore it. That means you go to those specific fixtures and see what the situation is. Is it a fixture which is not in common use. Is it a water fountain with a lead lining or was there lead solder?”
As previously mentioned, those two fixtures were capped.
These results had Roselle Park News request previous testing which Mrs. Guercio had repeatedly stated had been done about five years ago. Although not legally required, the Business Administrator had stated numerous times in response to the question being publicly asked that testing was in fact done. It was not until an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request was submitted by the newspaper that Mrs. Guercio publicly admitted that no such testing was ever conducted by the district in 2010 or 2011.
Below is a copy of the report submitted by Garden State Laboratories for review: